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Gain v. Colvin

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 4, 2013

KENT W. GAIN, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

RONALD L. BUCKWALTER, Senior District Judge.

Currently pending before the Court are Plaintiff Kent W. Gain, Sr.'s Objections to the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski. For the following reasons, the Objections are overruled and the Report and Recommendation is approved and adopted.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On April 19, 2010, Plaintiff Kent W. Gain, Sr. protectively an application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 301, et seq. (R. 115-16.)[1] His claim alleged disability, since June 1, 2006, due to a degenerative shoulder injury. (Id. at 136, 140.) The state agency denied Plaintiff's application on August 10, 2010, and Plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). (Id. at 70-73, 76.) Following the hearing-at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert testified-ALJ Brian B. Rippel issued a decision, dated September 23, 2011, deeming Plaintiff "not disabled." (Id. at 20-68.) On August 23, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, (id. at 1-3), making the ALJ's ruling the final decision of the agency. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.972.

Plaintiff initiated the present civil action in this Court on October 19, 2012. His Request for Review set forth three alleged errors, as follows: (1) the ALJ's residual functional capacity determination is unsupported by substantial evidence because the ALJ erred in weighing the August 17, 2011 opinion of treating physician Dr. Rill and the opinion of physician assistant Stabley; (2) the ALJ failed to apply the appropriate legal standards in assessing Plaintiff's credibility when he evaluated Plaintiff's daily activities, treatment, and limitations; and (3) the ALJ's Step 5 determination is unsupported by substantial evidence because the ALJ's hypothetical question to the vocational expert was incomplete, and both the vocational expert and ALJ failed to identify the Dictionary of Occupational Titles codes for the jobs that the vocational expert determined Plaintiff could perform. On October 15, 2013, United States Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") recommending that Plaintiff's Request for Review be denied and that judgment be entered in favor of Defendant.

Plaintiff filed Objections to the R&R on October 21, 2013, asserting the following: (1) the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that the ALJ gave proper weight to the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Rill, should be rejected; (2) the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that the ALJ's credibility findings were supported by substantial evidence should be rejected; and (3) the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that the ALJ's Step 5 determination was supported by substantial evidence should be rejected. Defendant submitted a Response to the Objections on October 25, 2013, making this matter ripe for judicial review.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW[2]

A. Standard for Judicial Review of an ALJ's Decision

It is well-established that judicial review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to determining whether "substantial evidence" supports the decision. Burnett v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin. , 220 F.3d 112, 118 (3d Cir. 2000). "Substantial evidence does not mean a large or considerable amount of evidence, but rather such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Hartranft v. Apfel , 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999) (quoting Pierce v. Underwood , 487 U.S. 552, 564-65 (1988)). When making this determination, a reviewing court may not undertake a de novo review of the Commissioner's decision and may not re-weigh the evidence of record. Monsour Med. Ctr. v. Heckler , 806 F.2d 1185, 1190 (3d Cir. 1986). In other words, even if the reviewing court, acting de novo, would have decided the case differently, the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed when supported by substantial evidence. Id. at 1190-91; see also Gilmore v. Barnhart , 356 F.Supp.2d 509, 511 (E.D. Pa. 2005) (holding that the court's scope of review is "limited to determining whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and whether the record, as a whole, contains substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's findings of fact'") (quoting Schwartz v. Halter , 134 F.Supp.2d 640, 647 (E.D. Pa. 2001)).

B. Standard of Review of Objections to a Report and Recommendation

Where a party makes a timely and specific objection to a portion of a report and recommendation by a United States Magistrate Judge, the district court is obliged to engage in de novo review of only those issues raised on objection. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Sample v. Diecks , 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989). In so doing, a court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings and recommendations" contained in the report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court may also, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, rely on the Magistrate Judge's proposed findings and recommendations. See United v. Raddatz , 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Duplicative Objections

Plaintiff's First and Third Objections rely almost exclusively on the briefing and arguments presented to the Magistrate Judge. As such objections are improper under the Federal Rules of ...


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